iProspect Social Networking User Behavior Study


Full story at: http://jondron.net/cofind/frshowresource.php?tid=5325&resid=1365

A fascinating glimpse into the behaviour of people getting to and interacting on social networking sites in 2007.

One little snippet of information that particularly interests me:

” MySpace (68%), YouTube (65%) and FaceBook (42%) are all visited by a greater percentage of the 18-24 year old user population, as well as more frequently than other age groups. They also search YouTube (81%) and MySpace (41%) for entertainment purposes more than other age groups. And finally, 18-24 year olds post comments on MySpace (56%), YouTube (31%) and Amazon (30%) more than other age groups. “

That’s a really high percentage of engagement. This is another little bit of evidence that there is something different about the younger generation and the ways that they expect to interact with Web content.

There are a couple of issues here that have me pondering.

Firstly, I and many others already do try to use this propensity in teaching, but often without those levels of voluntary engagement seen on social sites. I think that this relative lack of participation might have a fair bit to do with ownership and motivation, though also to self-confidence: contributions on a social site are from a position of strength (we wouldn’t comment unless we thought we knew something)whereas when learning something we are, by definition, less sure of ourselves. If we want engagement then it is important therefore to build educational activities that are within our learners’ comfort zones.

Secondly, and more worryingly, this reminds me that formal education is about attempting to perpetuate (and, albeit, hopefully evolve) the cultural values of academics. Unfortunately we are increasingly finding ourselves in situations where the values that we have learnt are no longer applicable. Like the scribes whose livelihoods were taken away by the printing press, we seek to preserve and perpetuate a way of thinking that does not compete well in an ecosystem driven by dialogue and collective cognition. We old folk are still living in the era of publication, not participation. We trundle along to conferences and subscribe to journals that perpetuate the old cycles of peer-reviewed papers etc not because we are sure it is the best way to do things, but because we have always done things that way. We are both drivers and driven: as academics, our jobs often depend on this. It is like still doing all of our correspondence through the postal service when the rest of the world is using email and IM. Sure, like the scribes, what we produce may be beautiful and well-crafted. But it makes little sense to do it when the fast-moving fast-thinking part of the world is engaged in agile, interactive, participative communication. In my fuddy duddy way I would not like to completely lose the intellectual rigour and richness of the old ivory towers: there will always be a need for this. On the other hand, I would like to embrace the multi-valued, sometimes chaotic, always vibrant collective, cooperative and confrontational melange of the Participative Web. This is a move from knowledge absorption to ubiquitous knowledge construction, where individual authority is just a piece in the mosaic. Sure, when looked at as a pool of information, it is unreliable, eclectic and hard to fathom. But the point is that it is not a pool of information. It is an ocean of dialogue. As academics, we need to swim there, or we will surely drown. Or, worse, we might sit on the beach bemoaning the recklessness of the young swimmers as the rising tide starts to lap around our feet.
Created:Tue, 13 May 2008 18:23:51 GMT

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

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